Clash of land-use priorities troubling

The Lower Colorado River Authority has proposed to construct a large electrical transmission line across the largest piece of protected land — public or private — in Gillespie County, southwest of Austin. Owned by Terese T. Hershey, a renowned conservationist, the 1,500-acre Hershey Ranch is protected by a conservation easement that was supposed to conserve it in perpetuity. The Hill Country Land Trust, one of 30 private, nonprofit land trusts in Texas, “holds” the conservation easement and is entrusted with ensuring the land is protected forever.

A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement — individually negotiated between landowner and land trust for each property — that perpetually restricts all future nonagricultural development of the property. The landowner retains title to the property, assured it will stay in its natural, productive state.

Land trusts, such as the Texas Agricultural Land Trust, meet their mission to conserve natural resources and the agricultural viability of rural, working lands. And Texans are assured that water, food and air will be protected. Thus the conservation easement is an effective strategy to conserve natural resources without huge public expenditures. The permanent protection of private, rural lands through conservation easements is one of the most cost-effective strategies to conserve natural resources… Read more from the SA Express-News